On October 12, 1810, King Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The entire town was invited to the celebration on the fields at the front of the city gates. These fields were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”), to honour the Princess.
Horse races were held on October 18, 1810 to honour the newly wed couple.
The celebrations were repeated the following year and have continued ever since. Well, mostly. They skipped the year 1813, considering Bavaria’s involvement in the Napoleonic War. Over the years, occasional years have been missed, as well, due to cholera outbreaks, depression and World Wars I and II.
In 1819, it was declared an annual event and in later years, officials pushed the date back. The temperatures in late September were much more tolerable and the days were longer.
Since 1850, there has been a parade to honour the wedding of King Ludwig and his bride, to mimic the one that occurred in 1810.
The parade starts in downtown Munich and ends at the fairgrounds, today known as Weisn, where the town Mayor officially opens the taps at exactly 12:00 pm.
12 gunshots are sounded off to alert the town’s restaurant owners that they can officially open their beer taps.
Oktoberfest is a huge fair with amusement rides, beer tents, music, games and and all of the traditional foods famous of Germany.
In Munich this year, celebrations are held under the Schottenhamel tent in Thereisienwiese. It might be a good idea to reserve a spot in the beer tent as it will fill up quickly. Once it does, they close off entrances. There are many options of getting there.
More than 6 million people visit this particular Oktoberfest every year. Can you imagine how much beer is served to accommodate all these visitors?!
In 2013, 7.7 million litres of it! Get your litre on September 16 until October 3rd.
While you’re in Munich, skate at the Olympic rink or swim in the Olympic sized pool. 1972 was the year of Olga Korbut so take a trip down memory lane.
Where Is The Second Largest Oktoberfest Celebration Held?
Next to the massive Munich celebrations, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, nailed this one. They are rivaled to be the second largest fair in the world with somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million visitors. It is the largest in North America and runs from October 10-18 this year.
Oktoberfest leads up to the Canadian Thanksgiving Parade which is televised annually from Kitchener-Waterloo, the very German region of Ontario. Despite the mass numbers in attendees, it still does not reach the caliber of Munich with the exciting roller coasters.
Across The World
Next in line, as far as size is concerned, is Blumenau, Brazil where 700,000 people attend the 33 year old festival. It runs from October 8-26.
Otto Blumenau, a German philosopher, founded the town along with 17 countrymen and established it as a farming community in 1850. Of the 320,000 residents, 30% are of German descent. Remember, this is Brazil!
Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, with it’s large German region, puts on a fairly large Oktoberfest. Aside from the usual fare of beer, food, more food, music, they at least feature one out of the ordinary event. Weiner dog races!
They claim to be the second largest with anywhere between 500,000 and 650,000 annual attendees. This slightly pales to the Ontario version with 750,000 people. Their week long festival runs from September 19-26.
The Marco Polo Hotel, in Hong Kong, hosts a 23 day festival where an attendee might drink a modest 1 and a half litres of Lowenbrau-equivalent beer, or about 4 cups per person. Get there early, though, because they only serve 200 steins per night. The festival starts October 17 and ends November 8.
Brisbane, Australia, Frankenmuth, Michigan and Fredricksburg, Texas are just a few cities that have been celebrating Oktoberfest for years with the usual set-up.
It would be great to find a city that created a little more edge and excitement to compare to Munich, Germany. So, I’ll keep going….
South Africa brings a travelling Oktoberfest show, Bierfest, to various cities from September to November. These add a little sparkle with a costume contest. From Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg, a 4,000 seat tent is set up for the festivities.
Another in South Africa is Oktoberfest SA with a big list of musical entertainment.
The National Beer Festival in Argentina, started by German immigrants in 1963, is held at Villa General Belgrano, Córdoba. The 6,000 German residents of Belgrano welcome 30,000 people for their festival that has run for 52 years. Catch this one from October 6-16.
Now we’re talking…. Portland, Oregon treats their partygoers right! They offer roller skating, mini golf, performances and rollercoasters.
Colorado has it going on, too, with an outdoor DJ in the ballpark region in Denver.
Tampa, Florida even celebrates and holds a “Carry The Wench”. Men carry their wives through an obstacle course.
Miami hosts a ferris wheel and a zipline. Now it’s getting fun!
Here is a list of what has been organized across Florida but double check as the site may not be updated due to the storms.
Festivities are literally everywhere. Where is the one closest to you? All it takes is a Google search.
Update: In lieu of the hurricanes, flooding and fires happening all over the world recently, some festivals may be cancelled. Godspeed to those who have lost and suffered through this devastation.
Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe for Oktoberfest 2017